The Single Most Important Nutrient for Battling Depression- Omega-3 Fats
The last 150 years have ushered in myriad changes – electricity, Penicillin, the Internet – but not all changes have been for the better.
Take for instance, the Western diet, which has become increasingly more processed, packed with man-made additives and preservatives. One consequence of such a diet is a lack of essential fatty acids, particularly Omega-3.
The ratio of fats from fish and wild plants to fats from animal and vegetable sources has gone from a balanced 1:1 to a dangerously disproportionate 1:10 ratio. At the same time, there has been a steep rise in depression rates. Is this merely coincidence, or has our changing diet impacted our mental health?
Studies Reveal the Link Between Lack of Omega-3 Supplements and Depression
Omega-3 deficiency doesn’t just affect your physical health – insufficient Omega-3 is the sixth leading case of death in the United States – but omega-3 can also tip the scales of your mental health.
For instance, Japan and Iceland are populations that consume large amounts of fish (a major source of Omega-3) and have surprisingly low rates of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).
Numerous global studies have evidenced the connection between Omega-3 deficiency and certain psychological disorders.
One study found that healthy individuals with low plasma concentrations of a form of Omega-3 known as docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) also had reduced levels of serotonin. Low levels of serotonin have been proven to influence moods and lead to depression and anxiety.
Omega-3 Supplements Shows Promise as a Healthy Alternative to Antidepressants
Increasing your intake of Omega-3 supplements may just keep the blues away, and without any of the known side effects caused by prescription antidepressants. Professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, David Mischoulon, MD, explains, “By taking in more omega-3 supplements, we’re essentially re-equilibrating the ratio.”
Highlighting the effectiveness of Omega-3 as an antidepressant, the Journal of Clinical Psychology recently reported on the largest randomized, double-blind study to date. For 4 years, researchers followed 432 men and women suffering from major depression and difficult-to-treat conditions.
Results indicated that Omega-3 treatment was comparable to the positive results typically achieved with conventional antidepressant therapy.
Several studies have also shown that the Omega-3 supplements form know as EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) significantly reduces signs of depression in individuals who have failed to respond to traditional antidepressant treatment. Omega-3 has also been shown to guard against relapses.
Preliminary studies indicate that Omega-3 might be a natural and safe remedy to postpartum depression, a psychological condition that affects 1 in 5 new mothers every year. Studies have shown that women exhibiting signs of postpartum depression have inadequate levels of Omega-3 in their bodies.
Elevating levels of Omega-3 intake may be an effective way to cure the depression, as taking antidepressants can harm the fetus or the child if the mom is still breastfeeding.
Adding Omega-3 Back into Your Diet
Acclaimed mind-body medicine expert Dr. James S. Gordon, MD explains the link between Omega-3 and depression in his new book: Unstuck: Your Guide to the Seven-Stage Journey Out of Depression. He maintains that part of a healthy regimen includes adding natural therapies, adding Omega-3 supplements, to your treatment plan for depression.
Cold-water fish, such as salmon and krill, are abundant sources of Omega-3, as are flaxseed, chia seeds and some nuts. While you can increase your intake of these foods, it is also important to supplement with a high-quality, pure Omega-3 nutrient.
Doctors recommend taking 0.5 to 2 grams of Omega-3 a day. Healthcare practitioners caution against taking more than 3 grams a day, unless recommended by your physician.